Breast cancer treatments that target genetic weaknesses of disease a 'giant step closer'
One of the most deadly subtypes of breast cancer found to be more similar to ovarian cancerResearch can reveal cancer's genetic weaknesses leading to more targeted drugs



12:48 GMT, 24 September 2012

More targeted breast cancer treatments are a 'giant step closer' according to scientists, after a study revealed new genetic insights into the disease.

The most comprehensive analysis of breast cancer so far has revealed there are four major sub-types of the disease.

The study suggests one of the most deadly subtypes, known as 'basal-like' is actually genetically more similar to ovarian tumours than other breast cancers.


Screening: Around 48,000 women in the UK develop breast cancer every year. The latest research could lead to more targeted treatments

It opens the possibility for more effective treatment options, perhaps using some drugs already in use against ovarian cancer.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, looked at the biological details of tumours, rather than focusing primarily on where the cancer arises in the body.

The hope is that such research can reveal cancer's genetic weaknesses and lead to more targeted drugs.

Study co-leader Dr Matthew Ellis, said: 'With this study, we're one giant step closer to understanding the genetic origins of the four major subtypes of breast cancer.

Dr Matthew Ellis

Step closer: Dr Matthew Ellis has led the search for the genetic origins of breast cancer

'Now we can investigate which drugs work best for patients based on the genetic profiles of their tumors.'

The researchers analyzed DNA of breast cancer tumors from 825 patients, looking for abnormalities. Altogether, they reported, breast cancers appear to fall into four main classes when viewed in this way.

One class showed similarities to ovarian cancers, suggesting it may be driven by similar biological developments.

'It's clear they are genetically more similar to ovarian tumors than to other breast cancers,' Dr Ellis said.

'Whether they can be treated the same way is an intriguing possibility that needs to be explored.'

Around 48,000 women in the UK develop breast cancer every year, most of whom are over 50. There is a good chance of recovery if it is detected in its early stages.

The report is the latest from the federally Cancer Genome Atlas, and was published in the journal Nature.